Nicotine patches: do they work? Let’s clarify

Are nicotine patches really effective?

Modified on: 29/07/2023

Quitting smoking with nicotine patches: is it the best alternative?

“Stop smoking? What does it take? You have to really want to.

Unfortunately, many people trying to kick nicotine addiction often hear these words. But, unfortunately, in most cases, the person saying them is a non-smoker who has no idea how difficult it is to put cigarettes aside once and for all.

It is not always enough to ‘want to’, but you need the support of products designed to satisfy the need for nicotine, thus helping you quit smoking. The most popular are chewing gum, oral sprays and, above all, patches. The latter, in particular, are prevalent and are advertised as a good, effective and discreet way to quit cigarettes.

But do they really work? Can those who use them expect good results and stop smoking for good without enduring withdrawal symptoms and suffering any side effects? Or are there perhaps more effective tools to use in the fight against smoking?

We will answer these questions in the following article.

How do nicotine patches work?

Nicotine patches: what they are and how to use them

Nicotine patches provide a constant and controlled amount of active ingredients throughout the day, reducing the effects of withdrawal. Their dosage can be gradually reduced until nicotine dependence is finally eliminated. These products can be purchased freely in pharmacies and parapharmacies without a doctor’s referral.

Nicotine patches should be applied to the skin and kept in place for between 16 and 24 hours, depending on the type used.

If you will use them to stop smoking, here are some tips to get the best results: place the patch on a clean, dry, hairless patch of skin. Recommended areas for application are the upper chest, upper arm, shoulder or back. Avoid placing the patch on irritated or damaged areas. To avoid overstressing the skin, apply it to a different area each day. Avoid placing it in the same place more than once a week. If the patch becomes loose or falls off, replace it with a new one.

Read also: The effects of vaporised nicotine in electronic cigarettes

Side effects and contraindications of nicotine patches

Wearing a nicotine patch at night can disrupt sleep and cause behavioural disturbances during REM sleep (parasomnias). When these symptoms occur, the patch should be removed as soon as you go to sleep and a new one applied when you wake up.

Due to the contact of nicotine with the skin, some people experience itching, burning or tingling when using these products for the first time. This side effect usually disappears within an hour. However, more annoying symptoms such as redness and swelling in the area where the patch is applied may occur in other cases.

Occasionally, symptoms related to nicotine overdose may also occur, including diarrhoea, dizziness, headache, stomach pain and vomiting. In rare cases, patches can cause severe side effects such as increased heart rate, abnormal heartbeat, breathing difficulties, convulsions and severe skin rashes.

Before using nicotine patches, it is advisable to talk to a medical professional and assess whether there are any health conditions for which the use of these products may be contraindicated. In particular, you should proceed with caution if you suffer from:

  • hypersensitivity to bandages;
  • allergies to certain medications;
  • diabetes;
  • heart disease;
  • hypertension;
  • kidney disease;
  • liver disease;
  • gastric ulcer;
  • dermatological diseases;
  • thyroid disease.

Patches should also not be used during pregnancy. However, women who expect a child and need to continue anti-smoking therapy can use products that do not continuously release nicotine throughout the day, such as chewing gum and oral sprays.

Electronic cigarettes vs nicotine patches

Nicotine patches: are there more effective alternatives?

Nicotine patches were a popular method of quitting smoking up to a decade ago. However, they have never been particularly effective because they only satisfy physical dependence, not psychological and behavioural dependence.

Smokers do not see cigarettes only to consume nicotine. Other aspects of smoking were neglected in the past: the sensations caused by inhaling and exhaling, gestures and social rituals. This is why nicotine patches and all other smoking cessation devices such as chewing gum fail to satisfy users completely.

On the other hand, electronic cigarettes seem to have solved these problems, and even the scientific community now seems to regard them as the best alternative for quitting smoking. Their effectiveness comes from Cochrane research, which drew on contributions from around 50 medical studies conducted worldwide.

Cochrane is an international non-profit organisation that collects and disseminates accurate and up-to-date scientific evidence in the medical field thanks to the work of numerous health professionals.

The findings of experts working with this organisation suggest that vaping devices are more effective in helping smokers quit than patches or nicotine gum and that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

Read also: Disposing of cigarette butts: How long do they take to decompose?

In conclusion

We have explained how nicotine patches are used, the undesirable effects of their use and their actual effectiveness. These products can help you quit smoking by combating nicotine addiction, but they have several weaknesses that undermine their success.

At the moment, the scientific community seems to be pointing to e-cigarettes as the best tool in the fight against smoking.

If you are also trying to quit smoking, but are unable to do so without external help, try an electronic cigarette. Then, choose your new device at Terpy, Europe’s number 1 vape shop, and stock up on the best vape liquids.